How to Road Trip With a Baby

Recently, our family took a trip from Seattle to San Francisco and back again. We had an amazing time (and we’re huge fans of road trips) but the whole experience came with some unexpected challenges that we really hope will help other families plan their next adventure. It’s not just about traveling; it’s also about making sure your baby is safe when you’re on the go!

The “road trip with baby during covid” is a guide to help parents plan their trips. It includes things like how to prepare for the trip and what items you will need.

Vintage road trip canoe on top of car illustration.

Note from the editor: This is a guest post by AJ Gretz.

“Do you believe we’ve made a blunder?”

That was the question I asked my wife after a few hours on the journey from Michigan to Colorado. Our one-year-old daughter was having problems going asleep, and she was expressing her displeasure with being confined to her car seat.

With 19 hours to go, I was beginning to doubt my decision to drive so far with a wailing infant in the backseat.

Our journey led us from Gladstone, Michigan to Grand Junction, Colorado, where we gathered with a group of friends from all throughout North America. We had some discussion about how we were going to get there since we had a 2.5-year-old and a newborn.

After researching flights and Amtrak options, we concluded that the best way to travel to Colorado was to take a road trip. It took us 22 hours to get there and 20 hours to go back (we were originally driving from my parents’ home in another area). We reasoned that driving would give us the greatest freedom and enable us to transport the most small-child equipment.

We didn’t sure whether it would work or if the whole trip would blow up in our faces since we hadn’t done it before. But we were both curious to see what might happen if we tried something new.

Thankfully, the journey went off without a hitch. And, although there were some challenging times with grumpy kids (and parents), I can confidently state that I would do it all over again tomorrow.

The following is a rundown of what we did to make it through the voyage. We hope that by learning from our mistakes, you will feel more confidence about embarking on your own trip (or microadventure!) with kids. We want you to know that it is possible since it was a fantastic experience for our family!

First, Face Your Fear.

It might be scary to do anything with little children for the first time. As a result, it’s reasonable that some parents would want to wait until their children are older before embarking on a lengthy road trip.

A road journey should be approached with your eyes wide open. Yes, infants do cry. Yes, if your child is still in diapers, he or she will defecate very shortly after leaving a rest stop. Yes, you will get irritable and say something to your partner that you will later regret.

But if you anticipate such things to happen, you’ll be less surprised when they occur, and you’ll be more equipped emotionally to cope with them and go on.

You have to find out what you’re comfortable with as a parent. Maybe you’re not ready to spend double-digit hours in a vehicle. It’s OK to begin small. But we’ve discovered that our children are remarkably resilient – often much more so than we anticipated. And kids tend to feed off our parental sentiments. They’ll probably perform better if we’re trying our best to enjoy ourselves despite some less-than-ideal conditions.


Before you go, make sure you plan and prepare well.

Vintage back of suv for family road trip packed to brim.

This is where all of the credit goes to my wife. She stuffed a container with toys and books before we went. They were all brand new from the dollar shop. They included some old favorites.

She left the trashcan accessible but concealed from the kids’ view when she packed the vehicle (she’s a superb packer). The idea was that we’d bring out a toy or a book as a surprise for our child every now and again. This sometimes afforded us 5 minutes of peace and quiet. At other occasions, it was closer to 20.

We recently toilet trained our child, but we felt that it would be better for everyone if he wore a diaper when we drove. We also carried his (thoroughly cleaned) potty along with us and let him use it whenever we stopped at a rest break. This appeared to go well, however it took him a few days to acclimatize to life without diapers once we returned home.

Last but not least, we double-checked that our iPad Mini was fully charged and loaded with some of our favorite cartoons. Families have varied rules regarding screen usage, but during a lengthy car journey, we are often more liberal than at home.

A note regarding screen time: I was starting to feel terrible about how much time our child had spent watching cartoons at one point during the trip. My wife and the baby were both asleep at the time. So, after a few warnings, I reached towards the back of the room and yanked the iPad from his grip. This, of course, resulted in a massive tantrum, waking everyone up and leaving the infant irritable for many hours.

The lesson of the tale is that your child is going to be fine. Let things remain calm if they are. It’s never a bad thing to have a little extra Curious George.

Stopping Along the Way is a part of the journey to get there.

Getting the automobile ready. We travel in a 2002 Subaru Outback with a rear bench. We opted to arrange the two car seats next to each other for the journey, with the baby in the center and the toddler in one of the front seats. My wife and I then took turns sitting close to the baby in the rear passenger seat. We had the toys and books on the floor, concealed from the kids’ view, and the food on the seat in the front passenger seat. This made it easier for us to pass along books, toys, and refreshments to the kids during the longer drives.

Between the books, toy cars, looking out the window for tractors and construction trucks, and, of course, the iPad, our child did fairly well. It was a bit more difficult to keep the infant entertained. We alternated between giving her toys, teddy animals, and miscellaneous items like water bottles or tourist information booklets. In addition, there was a lot of tickling, peekaboo, and singing songs.

To be honest, this was the most challenging aspect of the journey. We switched drivers every 3-4 hours since keeping her amused was exhausting. However, one of the unanticipated benefits of the trip was that I felt like I spent a lot of valuable time connecting with her. As a working father, I am always battling for more time with my children. The hours (and hours) of undisturbed time spent sitting next to one other allowed us to connect in ways I hadn’t anticipated, but which I much appreciated. Of course, this was when she wasn’t weeping.


Music. We discovered that classical music helped calm the kids down when they were fussy or attempting to fall asleep. We also relied heavily on my wife’s childhood cassette, which was full of calming voices and Beethoven music, particularly during nap time.

Meals. We didn’t want to waste money on fast food stops along the road, so we packed a cooler with snacks. Fruit, string cheese, muffins, trail mix, cheerios, and other snacks are all excellent alternatives.

Take a time to imagine yourself as a tiny kid before considering what to bring. “What sort of a mess would I create if I smashed this object into my face or into the carseat?” you may wonder. How difficult would it be to clean up?”

We would normally stop at a rest stop for meals, or we would look for a public park and find one just off the road. This enabled us to stretch and offered the kids a chance to run about and let off steam.

Sandwiches – lunch meat (if you have a cooler), peanut butter, etc. — are a great option for a more substantial meal. You may get a portable charcoal barbecue if you want to go the additional mile. We paid roughly $30 for a little rectangular replica from Char-Broil since it would fit in the vehicle better than the ones that seem like smaller reproductions of the real thing.

My parents had begun doing this on their road trips, and we thought it would be a nice idea to grill hot dogs a few times along the route, because the kids could eat them later in the van without making a mess. Due to the wind and several bad fire starters, I had mixed success with the grill. But it was quite nice when it worked and we had hot supper.

Vintage toddler in camping tent with pack n play.

Camping with little children is considerably simpler with pack ‘n plays inside a tent.

Camping. We decided to take a vacation on the route to Colorado. It took 13 hours to go from Gladstone to a campsite west of Lincoln, Nebraska on the first day.

This was one of our most apprehensive moments on the trip. When I asked on Facebook about people’s camping experiences with little children, I received a wide variety of comments, from “It’ll be fantastic!” to “Bring alcohol.”

Thankfully, our experience fell somewhere in the center. We caravanned this section of the trip with some other friends, who later tented with us, and having some other adult companionship helped us relax after all the traveling.

We have a family-size tent, so we were able to borrow a second pack and play and place each child in one of them for sleeping. Because he was more contained than if he had been on a camping mat, I believe this helped our child feel more at ease in the tent. He took a while to relax, but he eventually fell asleep for the whole night. The infant struggled, in part because the temperature was lower than we had anticipated, and she is accustomed to sleeping in a rather warm environment. It’s possible that wearing warmer jammies might have helped.


Another disadvantage was that our vehicle was so densely packed that setting up at night and then pulling down and re-packing the car in the morning took a long time. Some KOA Campgrounds feature rustic cottages that may be leased for $40-50 per night, according to a friend of mine. We’ll definitely check into this in the future since it’s less expensive (and more enjoyable) than staying at a hotel.

More information on how to take infants and children camping may be found in these posts.

Driving Through the Night on the Way Back

After staying in Lincoln, we drove a shorter distance to spend the night with friends before driving a third short day to Grand Junction. We intended to camp at the same area outside Lincoln on the way back, dividing the journey into two 12-hour days.

However, over the weekend, we decided to give driving through the night a go. We were eager to return home, and two lengthy days seemed less tempting than one long day at that point in our trip.

I didn’t cancel our camping reservation in case we changed our minds and wanted to stop. However, the weather was a pleasant 95 degrees as we drove into Nebraska, and the kids were relatively laid-back, so we decided to press on.

Our adventure was a success. However, you must know yourself and your children to judge whether or not it is worthwhile. Our kids sleep extremely well after they fall asleep, and there wasn’t much to tell other than a 3:00 AM diaper change outside of a gas station.

AoM provides some helpful hints for pulling an all-nighter. However, the most important thing is to talk with your spouse on a regular basis. Make sure you’re both on the same page about whether one of you will drive or whether you’ll take turns. Also, if you come in the morning, make sure you have a plan in place for how you’ll relax and recuperate the next day (since the kids will be rested and ready for your attention!).

Last Thoughts

Overall, we had a fantastic time. There were times when I felt like I was working really hard for a holiday, but it was well worth it in the end. We created a lot of memories, formed unique bonds with our children, and saved a lot of money compared to flying or purchasing full-price rail tickets.

Another word of encouragement is that it was a lot of fun to see our child enjoy so many new experiences. I was astonished by how easily he adjusted to different people and environments, and the trip helped me appreciate both who he is now and who he will become as he grows older.

Another word of encouragement is that it was a lot of fun to see our child enjoy so many new experiences. I was astonished by how easily he adjusted to different people and environments, and the trip helped me appreciate both who he is now and who he will become as he grows older.

Pastor AJ Gretz is a married and father of two children. He is a proponent of simple life and a staunch supporter of the American Midwest. His family and he presently reside in the beautiful state of Michigan.  




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The “cross country road trip with baby” is a great way to experience the beauty of America. You can find many places that are not too crowded. This article will give you tips on how to make your cross country road trip with baby a success!.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can babies go on long car rides?

A: Babies are not allowed to go on long car rides. This is due to the potential for them getting hurt in an accident and their car seat would be ineffective if they were sitting in it, causing more harm than good.

How soon can you take a road trip with a newborn?

A: It depends on the circumstances. If you are going to be taking a road trip for 3 days or less, it is okay to take your newborn with you. However, if you plan to stay for more than 4-6 weeks away, I would suggest that you get advice from a professional before traveling with your infant child.

How do you take a baby on a long road trip?

A: Its best to take a baby on the road trip when they are 1-2 years old. From then, you will be able to carry your child in their car seat safely while driving and enjoy this time with them immensely.

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